Composite / Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report
Sweeping differences of opinion and policy aren’t an issue between the two candidates involved in the runoff for San Antonio’s District 6 City Council seat.
Attorney Melissa Cabello Havrda, 44, and certified public accountant Andy Greene, 58, are vying for the seat vacated by mayoral candidate Greg Brockhouse. The councilman narrowly beat Havrda in a runoff for the seat in 2017, winning by fewer than 500 votes.
Havrda is a lifelong District 6 resident, and Greene said he has lived in the district for 33 years and worked in the district office for 10 years.
In the first round of voting, Havrda came close to winning outright in a four-candidate race, receiving 47 percent of the vote to Greene’s 35 percent. Havrda received 1,113 more votes than Greene and said she has secured the endorsement of third-place candidate Robert Herrera. Herrera, a former District 6 city councilman, did not respond to requests from the Rivard Report to confirm his endorsement.
While the numbers might point to Havrda having a significant advantage, she said she learned two years ago the importance of fighting for every vote. So she is spending even more time than she did in 2017 trying engage with voters.
“I know that this 30 days is a very intense 30 days, and I’m leaving no stone unturned,” Havrda said. “People that have my signs in their yard, I’m knocking on their door and making sure they’re still with me. I can’t take anything for granted.”
Greene said he also is spending many of his days block-walking and talking to the district’s residents about the issues they’re most concerned about. His biggest obstacle in making up ground might be that there appears to be little difference between his positions on major issues and Havrda’s stances.
Greene said before the May 4 election he had been getting a lot of questions about the controversy surrounding City Council’s decision to remove Chick-fil-A from a concessions contract at the San Antonio Airport. More recently, he has been asked about whether that decision can be reversed, he said, and also questioned about the mayor’s race, transportation, and infrastructure.
“There is areas of our district where there are issues of congestion that need to be looked at,” Greene said. “Potranco is a prime example, close to Highway 151. It backs up there on a daily, consistent basis. We’ve got to try to find ways to alleviate that congestion.”
Greene previously worked for Brockhouse and former Councilman Ray Lopez, advising both on numerous subjects, including road infrastructure. Greene said if elected he will look at what areas of the district need immediate attention in terms of street and sidewalk improvements and work to move those areas up in the City’s infrastructure management program.
“People have issues when they’ve got potholes in their streets or when their streets are so bad they haven’t been paved in 25 years,” Greene said.
Greene said he believes former City Manager Sheryl Sculley gave District 6 “the short end of the stick” when prioritizing where to spend money for improvements in recent years. He said that as councilman he would work to build a better relationship for the district with new City Manager Erik Walsh.
Likewise, Havrda has heard concerns about transportation and infrastructure, but she said the issue most often brought to her attention is concern about rising property appraisals in Bexar County.
Havrda said she can relate because her home and business property appraisals have risen dramatically in the past two years, noting that the assessed value of her business property has risen $100,000 in that time. She said two years ago, the issue almost never came up when she met with residents in the district that stretches from West Commerce Street and Old Highway 90 northwest along both sides of Highway 151 and into the growing Alamo Ranch area west of 1604.
Greene has talked throughout the campaign about rising property valuations and making sure they’re fair. But while Greene talks more about studying the issue, Havrda said she would be interested in sitting on the appraisal board of directors.
“There is no accounting for it,” she said of why appraisals are rising so much, particularly in older neighborhoods. “What I’m hearing a lot from residents is they just want to know why. Show me why you think my property is this much. I’ve been through that process myself, and nobody showed me. Nobody explained to me why my property is worth that much more.
“I really believe that showing us the formula that [county appraisers] use for every single home or neighborhood, or however it changes, is what people want to understand.”
When it comes to electability, Greene said he believes he has winning credentials because of his experience working with different communities within the district as well as his work on the last three bond issue campaigns for the Northside Independent School District. He said he believes he can make up the votes that separated him and Havrda on May 4.
Havrda said she built her platform based on a survey on her campaign website that returned hundreds of responses. She said some of the most important issues to those who responded were street infrastructure and safety.
“I want to walk down my street in a safe neighborhood. I want to know my neighbors
;[and have] safe streets, safe sidewalks, good lighting,” Havrda said, explaining what she saw in those surveys. “It’s not complicated. So that kind of keeps it in perspective and helps me remember what is important to people on a day-to-day basis.”
Both candidates were asked about the long-running feud between the City and the San Antonio Professional Firefighters Union. The two parties have been attempting to negotiate a new contract in recent months.
Both Havrda and Greene said they believe the union ultimately must concede more ground when it comes to their health benefits, which the City has said are unsustainable over the long term.
“That’s correct. I believe they will have to,” Greene said. “It’s going to come back to health care for families, and I believe that’s a negotiating point that is still being discussed. They’ve had some good talks over the past couple months but then it gets hung up again on health care. The firefighters are all in for the current councilman in District 6, for his mayor’s race, but is that going to produce them anything better? It may not.”
Havrda said she is hoping new voices such as recently appointed City Manager Erik Walsh will have an impact. She said she would use whatever influence she has on the council, if elected, to push toward an agreement.
“If I’m elected and given the opportunity to have a say in this process, I hope to bring a little more of a collaborative voice,” she said. “I think there are a lot of egos involved on both sides and if we could be a little bit more collaborative on both sides and try to work this out together, sending it to an arbitrator is a little scary because then you’re putting it into a third party’s hands and neither one of you gets a say.”